A new biosecurity zone has been established in New South Wales after Varroa mite was discovered in beehives on three other properties.
Most important points:
- Authorities have begun eradicating beehives around Newcastle’s Varroa mite detection site
- The Primary Industries department destroyed 120 cabinets in Trangie on Monday, and another 300 in Newcastle
- Farmers fear the situation will affect the pollination season for many horticultural crops
It comes as the destruction of hundreds of beehives in Newcastle and parts of New South Wales has begun as authorities work to contain the spread of the deadly parasite.
The detection of the Varroa destructor — commonly referred to as the Varroa mite — in Newcastle harbor last week triggered a 10-kilometer-long extermination zone and halted all movements of bees across the state.
The latest zone concerns a contaminated property in Bulahdelah on the Mid North Coast, which is outside the previous zones, said Secretary of State for Agriculture Dugald Saunders.
“A new 10km extermination zone, 25km surveillance zone and an expanded 50km biosecurity zone have been put in place to quickly halt that new invasion and halt further spread,” Saunders said.
“Critically, this case is directly related to a previously identified property, demonstrating that the Department of Primary Industries’ prompt and efficient response is working well.”
The other two cases identified on Tuesday are in Newcastle and Seaham.
Seven infected buildings have now been discovered through contact tracing.
Hives that must be destroyed
The Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services has so far set aside 300 beehives in the zone that will be destroyed in the coming days.
“So far six sentry hives and three private beehives have been destroyed near Newcastle and will remain so for the next day,” Saunders said.
One hundred and twenty hives were also destroyed in Trangie on Monday after government contact tracers discovered that a commercial beekeeper near the harbor had recently sent some of his hives to the region.
“While no actual mite has been found in Trangie’s beehives, the decision was made to destroy them as well as they were under the same ownership,” Saunders said.
He said investigations were continuing to identify other possible movements that may have spread the parasite.
“What we’re really doing now is a lot of research work to see where other hives have traveled to.
Peter King runs a 130-year-old apiary in Cardiff and says a new sense of optimism in the sector has been ruined.
“When COVID started, people got into it [beekeeping] and that’s how we’ve been for the past few years,” he said.
“Only now is it slowing down again and we are devastated.”
Kurri Kurri apiarist Col Wilson said the thought of destroying hives was devastating.
“If you like honey, go out and buy it while it’s there, available.”
Commercial blueberry grower Vik Momi said the orders meant he could no longer move the bees he currently had on his Glenreagh estate to the crops they needed.
“The plants are going to flower soon and we need to move them to summer cultivation,” he said.
†[My beekeeper] says under NSW guidelines he mustn’t move them, he mustn’t move them more than 10 feet.”
Mr Momi said he relied on bees to pollinate his crop and ensure his fruit met consumer standards.
“It is very important for everything, the pollination improves the fruit quality,” he says.
“They make them juicier, bigger and tastier.
The effects of a widespread varroa mite outbreak or a significant halt in bee movement will affect more than just blueberries.
Almonds, apples and cherries are some of the 35 agricultural industries that rely on bee pollination.
The ABC has contacted several agencies in the fruit and vegetable sector, many of whom have said it could take several weeks before an effect on product prices is known.
With an unknown end date for movement restrictions, producers say it is difficult to speculate about the price increases.
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